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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Madagascar's Rajoelina takes early lead in presidential vote

He faces another former president for the first time since political turmoil in 2009

Electoral officials count votes after presidential elections in Antananarivo, Madagascar. EPA
Electoral officials count votes after presidential elections in Antananarivo, Madagascar. EPA

Former Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina took an early lead in a runoff election as counting of ballots got under way.

Mr Rajoelina, who ruled the Indian Ocean island nation for five years until 2014, has 57.8 per cent of the vote with results from 5.5 per cent of voting centres counted, the electoral commission said Thursday on its website. Marc Ravalomanana, another former president, received 42.2 per cent, it said.

They two are now vying against each other for the first time since political turmoil in 2009 forced Mr Ravalomanana from power. Both have said they will accept the run-off's results.

Mr Rajoelina, after casting his ballot in Antananarivo, the capital, said he is confident of the process.

"I appeal to all the Malagasy people to vote massively to express their choice so that they can choose who will lead this country," he said. "I am a democrat and I will accept the verdict of the ballot box," he said.

When Mr Ravalomanana voted in central Antananarivo he urged the people of Madagascar to vote and to respect the outcome.

"With the participation of all the Malagasy population, I hope that we will change Madagascar and we will move forward, we must have courage and also hope," he said. "We must accept the result if it takes place in good conditions and if it follows the democratic electoral process."

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Ten million voters are registered in Madagascar, a former French colony which is ranked by the World Bank as one of the world's poorest nations, although rich in ecological diversity. More than two-thirds of the island's population of 25 million live in extreme poverty, while corruption is reportedly widespread.

Campaigning in the election was largely peaceful. Antananarivo was vibrant in the final days before the vote with the orange T-shirts of Mr Rajoelina and the white and green ones of Mr Ravalomanana worn by hundreds of supporters.

The runoff was held Wednesday after none of the 36 candidates who competed in the first vote on November 7 won more than 50 per cent of the vote. A provisional result is expected to be announced by December 29, Midi Madagasikara, an Antananarivo-based newspaper, said on its website.

There was a relatively low turnout of voters on this Indian Ocean island.

Updated: December 20, 2018 02:19 PM

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